The 2018-19 season begins this weekend for the Florida Southern swimming teams as they begin their first year under new head coach Andy Robins with back-to-back dual meets Friday afternoon at Rollins and Saturday morning at Saint Leo. The men's squad is coming off its seventh consecutive top-five finish at the NCAA Division II National Championships, while the women's team placed 18th at last year's national championship meet and has six top-15 finishes in the last eight years.
Both teams will also carry national top-20 rankings into the season, with the men ranked No. 7 in the CSCAA Division II preseason poll, and the women ranked No. 17. The Moccasin men are the highest ranked team in the Sunshine State Conference, though Nova Southeastern (No. 12), Saint Leo (No. 14), Florida Tech (No. 16), and Tampa (No. 18) are all in the top-20. The women's national poll has Nova Southeastern at No. 3, and Tampa at No. 5, with Florida Southern the only other school from the SSC. Queens of Charlotte tops both polls after winning both national championships for the fourth year in a row.
Robins will have 13 swimmers who have represented Florida Southern at the NCAA Division II National Championships at least once in the last two years. That group is led by senior Matthew Holmes, last year's individual national champion in the men's 400-IM, along with seniors Nico Campbell and Luka Planinc, junior Talor Hamilton, and sophomore Brandon Dyck, who combined with Holmes to help the Moccasins bring home three silver or bronze medals in relay events. He also has five of the seven women back who set five school individual or relay records last year, with seniors Haley DeGrace, Krystal Karas, and Katie Moore, junior Allison Greenwood, and sophomore Maria Di Bella all on that list.
Holmes is the Moccasins' most decorated current swimmer with 13 All-American awards in his career and four NCAA medals. All four of those came last year when he won the 400-IM, finished third in the 200-IM, and helped the Mocs' 400-medley and 800-freestyle relay teams place third. He set school records in both the 200 and 400-IM, and broke the record in the 400 for the third year in a row.
Campbell holds eight All-American certificates and helped the Mocs finish in the top-five at the national finals in three different relays. Campbell has been an honorable mention All-American as an individual in the 200-free the last two seasons, and was the Sunshine State Conference individual champion as a junior.
Planinc has reached the national finals each of the last two years as the Mocs' top distance swimmer and was also part of the 800-freestyle relay team that has been an NCAA finalist two years running. He's medaled in the 500, 1000, and 1650 at the SSC Championships at least once during that same time frame.
Hamilton, who is the team's top returning swimmer in the 50-free, was a member of last year's bronze medal 200-freestyle relay team at nationals in his first appearance at the finals. He was right on the edge of qualifying for two other events as well.
Dyck was one of three rookies who reached the national finals last season, along with Matias Lopez and Miguel Bernotti, who are now sophomores. All three of them brought a different strength to the lineup, with Dyck and Lopez the top backstroke swimmers. Dyck was the SSC individual champion in the 100, and Lopez was the SSC champion in the 200. Dyck and Bernotti held Florida Southern's top times in the two butterfly events, and Lopez was an NCAA qualifier in the two individual medley events as well.
Though Florida Southern lost two All-American breaststroke swimmers, the Moccasins have filled the void with the addition of junior college All-American Andrew Brown. While at South Georgia State College, Brown helped the Hawks finish as the NJCAA national runner-up to Indian River State as a silver medalist in the 100-breast and bronze medalist in the 200. Another transfer, junior Daniel Rodriguez, will bolster the distance swimmers after winning the conference championship in the 1,650 the last two seasons at SUNY Oswego.
The women's team is led by DeGrace and Karas, who along with Holmes on the men's team, have competed in the Division II National Championships each of the last three years. DeGrace has been one of the SSC's top breaststroke swimmers since her arrival at Florida Southern, picking up five medals at the conference championships in her career. She's the school record holder in the 200 and helped the Moccasins set school records in the 200-medley and 400-medley relays by swimming the breaststroke leg in those events. Karas has been the Moccasins' lead sprinter for two years with their top times in the 50 and 100-free and her eight All-American awards are the most among the current group of Florida Southern women's swimmers. Of the four school relay records set by the Moccasins last year, Karas was a part of three.
Moore joined the Moccasins last year as a transfer and by the end of the season was their MVP with NCAA qualifying times in the 200, 500, and 1000-freestyle, while barely missing another in the 100. Moore was the SSC runner-up in the 500-free, finished third in the 1,000 and later earned honorable mention All-American honors in the 1,000. She was the only Moccasin with top times in three different events, and provided the anchor for their school-record 200 and 400-freestyle relay teams at the national finals.
Greenwood was the anchor on the school-record 200-medley relay team, which earned a silver medal at the SSC Championships, and aided the 400-freestyle team that also set a new school record. Individually, Greenwood was second only to Karas on the Florida Southern times list in the 100-free, and within 0.28 seconds in the 200-free of being an NCAA qualifier in the 50, 100 and 200.
Di Bella was part of the Moccasins' school record in the 200-medley relay too where Florida Southern finished as the SSC runner-up. Individually, she was an NCAA provisional qualifier in the 100-backstroke and on the fringe in the 50-free.
In addition to the national qualifiers and record holders from last year, the Moccasins have two more women's swimmers who have reached the national finals in previous seasons. Senior Rebeka Dics earned All-American honors as a relay swimmer in 2016 and '17 as one of the Mocs' top sprinters and was again a provisional qualifier in the 50 and 100-free last year. Junior Mallary Meyer swam in the 2017 national finals, and last year had NCAA provisional times in the 50-free and 100-back. Along with Dics, Meyer is a returning butterfly swimmer as well.
Florida Southern added one additional All-American by way of Indian River State, with junior Malin Wallen joining the team this year after winning five gold medals at last year's NJCAA Championships. Four of those came as a relay swimmer and one came in the 400-IM. She was also the runner-up in the 200-IM and 100-back as a sophomore, and the 200-IM, 500-free and 200-free as a freshman while helping Indian River win two national championships as a team.
After four dual meets to start the season against SSC opponents Rollins, Saint Leo, and Tampa, as well as a trip to Tallahassee to face Florida State, the Moccasins will compete in two multi-day invitational meets. The first of those is in Melbourne at the Panther Invitational, November 16-18, where the Mocs will face most of the SSC teams, including Florida Tech for the first time this season. The four-day Spartan Invitational is December 15-18, giving the Mocs their first chance to see Nova Southeastern.
After Christmas break, the Moccasins return to competition in January with three more meets, including their only two home dates of the 2018-19 season. Both of those will come against national championship teams.
Emory visits on Friday, January 11, with the women having won the last nine NCAA Division III national titles, and the men finishing as the D-III runner-up following a national title in 2017. Following a dual meet at Nova Southeastern on January 12, Indian River State comes to Lakeland on Friday, January 18 with a streak of 40 consecutive national championships at the junior college level in women's swimming, and 44 in men's.
The postseason begins on Thursday, February 21 with the Sunshine State Conference Championships spanning four days in Clearwater, Florida. The NCAA Division II National Championships are Wednesday, March 13 through Saturday, March 16 in Indianapolis.